With the U.S. leading in Monkeypox cases and continuing to increase, so is the stigma against the LGBTQ+ community. From the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s to today’s Monkeypox, the LGBTQ+ community has been a consistent target for stigma and discrimination.
Homophobic leaders have weaponized diseases as a way to depict homosexuality as “dirty” or all about sex. The truth is HIV/AIDS or Monkeypox does not discriminate.
Let’s get the facts straight. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Monkeypox can be spread through a) direct contact with rash, scabs, or bodily fluids b) respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex, or c) being scratched or bitten by an infected animal.
As of July 26, there were 22 confirmed Monkeypox cases in Connecticut and more vaccines and testing will soon become available.
Let us remember that stigma is real and can cause real damage. As Andy Seale from the World Health Organization put it plainly, “This is not a gay disease.” Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, but can be transmitted during sexual and intimate contact.
According to Dr. Darien Sutton of ABC, there is no currently approved treatment for Monkeypox; however, there are antiviral medications that have been proven to be effective for high risk groups. There are two vaccines available and have shown to be 85% effective at preventing Monkeypox. The vaccine is “well-tolerated” and symptoms include fever and pain at the injection site. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about your options.
Using language that is consistent with facts and truth will be important as we get through this global crisis. Though stigma is not new to the 21st century, social media and disinformation about Monkeypox have exacerbated stigma against LGBTQ folks and are spreading faster than the virus. The antidote to false information is education and evidence-based knowledge.
It is not only intellectually dishonest to say Monkeypox is a gay disease, it is morally wrong. Anyone can get Monkeypox no matter their sexual orientation or identity. Anyone who has been in close physical contact with someone who has Monkeypox is at risk of getting the disease.
Symptoms include fever, chills, rashes, sores, or skin lesions on the body… for more information on Monkeypox please visit this CDC information site. If you have any of these symptoms, please consult your healthcare provider.
Jon Andre Sabio Parrilla is a master of public health candidate at the Yale School of Public Health.